60/444 Healing from Infidelity: Ann Wilson, My Affair, part 3
Our affair lasted off and on for three years. I ended the relationship at least a half dozen times or more. But we also had a professional relationship, he as salesperson, me as buyer, so our relationship never completely ended making it harder to close the door with finality. I would also go through bouts of guilt, only to tell myself that God would forgive whatever I was doing. As I look back, I realize that only cheapened God’s grace. That was the only ‘saving’ I allowed God to do in my life at the time. During this three years, Ben’s and my relationship seemed to blossom. We seemed to be following the Lord and building our marriage on His foundation. Only we both had something to hide that kept Him from truly blessing our marriage.
My affair had been ‘over’ for about 6 months when I heard from Barney that the company he worked for was hiring salespeople, and I’ve been told most of my life I’d make a good salesperson. Ben and I talked it over and prayed about it and it seemed the time might be right. Initially they asked if I would be willing to move to Los Angeles, uh-uh, no way. Then a position opened up in Kansas City. Not too far from home, Ben could quit his all-consuming job at the trucking company and attend Seminary without having to work…we decided to go for it. Well, five minutes into my interview, the manager told me she wanted to hire me but had to finish the interview nonetheless. I took this as a sign from God that we were doing the right thing. We put our house on the market and it sold within weeks for cash no less. Another sign. We found a house in Kansas City right by a golf course and lake with a swimming beach, and with Ben’s love of golf, we felt this was another sign. The only thing that didn’t line up with seeming like God’s will was that I would have to travel with Barney for a month or so. I thought I could handle it…I was wrong.
Soon after beginning to travel together, the affair picked up right where it left off. Over the course of the summer, Ben and I grew further and further apart. He was increasingly suspicious when Barney continued to travel with me after our preset timetable had passed. I began to turn his suspicions back on him and tell him if he would just think more positively then our relationship would get back on track. I soon grew weary of the double life I’d been leading. I suppose my last straw was when I asked Barney how our relationship was affecting his marriage, because mine was sucking the big one. He replied by saying the sex was better than ever. The sex was better than ever…that’s all he had to say. That’s when I knew I needed to end our affair. I was hoping I could continue working at the job I was enjoying incredibly, but that would only be possible if I never, ever told Ben about the affair.
Ben, the kids and I went to my parents home for Labor Day weekend. Little did I know but Ben had discovered how to listen to my voice mail messages. As soon as we returned from our weekend away, he listened to my voice mail and heard a suggestive voice mail from Barney – he never quit being a persistent pursuer – saying he would call me the next day. The next day, Ben came home from class at Seminary and asked if Barney had called. I said, ‘No.’ Ben then told me he’d figured out how to get into my voice mail. Uh-oh. I knew I’d been found out. I walked Ben into the living room, sat him on the couch and told him I’d been having an affair with Barney. That was the worst day of my life. But I also felt like a weight had been lifted. I no longer had to lead a double life. I was free from the lying.
But I didn’t entirely know how to be free. I had never freely expressed myself; I didn’t grow up in a family that did that, so I never really learned how. So I initially didn’t want to deal with the hurt, the pain, my emotions, my failures. I thought it would just be easier if I ended it all right then and there. But alas, we had no gun, knives are too messy and the strongest medication we had was Tylenol. So I chose, we chose, to live in the chaos that followed the revelation.
Ben called Barney that day and told him to either come get me out of his house or leave me alone. I knew the choice Barney would make…he would leave me alone. Barney and I talked once that day so that I could also tell him the affair was over. I also talked with his wife that night and he must have told her because she didn’t feel it was appropriate for us to talk considering all that had happened that day. There was perhaps a business message or two that needed to be taken care of following the revelation, but by week’s end, we had ended all communication and have not talked since the week of September 6th, 1994.
So began the long road to healing. I chose to quit my job, at the chagrin of my boss (and her boss). The company was trying to convince me to stay and they would fire Barney. These were some pretty powerful words that seemed to be competing with the anger I was unexpectedly experiencing from Ben. You see, anger comes with conflict and we were conflict avoiders so we hadn’t come face to face with much of that. What was good about his anger and my despair were that we were finally beginning to feel. We both made a conscious decision to feel everything. Not only feel it, but talk about it.
In the process of talking everything through, it was revealed that Ben had been involved in an emotional affair back when he worked at the trucking company. He had never perceived it as a threat because it was never physical. What we began to realize was how this emotional affair set in motion some dynamics that set me up for the physical affair I had. Ben was giving his heart to Betty, not me. He had left me lonely, abandoned and emotionally vulnerable. He began to own his share of that and how he had hurt me.
The next fourteen months were full of ups and downs. Some aspects of healing I feel we did right was that we talked…a lot. We also surrounded ourselves with community, this included friends and counselors. We became transparently honest with one another. We opened up our souls to one another. My priorities began to shift from outside of God’s order and design to inside His order and design. I began to focus on Him, His image and who He had created me to be, not what He created me to do. Ben realized that more than anything else he wanted to be close to God and in order to do that, he would have to forgive me. The process of forgiveness had already begun, but it took a huge leap with this realization.
After those first fourteen months we felt like we were on more solid footing. We felt like we would make it. That’s not to say there weren’t difficult days ahead, but we had the hope to pull us through them, hope that a better day lay ahead. We began to make plans for the future, which had been put on hold those long, dark fourteen months. Ben wanted to return to seminary, but not for a Masters of Divinity to preach. He now knew that he wanted to counsel others who had been through the hell we had, because had it not been for some key people in our lives encouraging us that there was hope, I’m not sure we would have made it.
Ben’s Chaplain in the Army Reserves suggested a graduate counseling program in Denver, Colorado. So we sold the house (and half the stuff we owned), sold the car, gave away the dog and moved to Colorado. During this time we have both grown tremendously. I also completed my Masters in Counseling degree hoping that we could counsel and minister to couples together, which is exactly what we got to do with our work in Pastoral Care at a church in Denver. We did counseling, lead infidelity groups, teach premarital classes, lead seminars. Wow!
Now, we are in Warrensburg, MO where Ben is the Care Ministry Pastor doing counseling and leading groups and I coordinate our Women's Ministry and enjoy my work as a Med Tech at the hospital.
Our relationship today is more than I ever imagined it could be on our wedding day. We have a level of intimacy that is amazing and is our best protection against infidelity sneaking it’s way into our lives again. Ben is the protector of our family. He has regained a strength that he was designed to possess. And he is now my persistent pursuer. I am no longer the controlling, guarded woman. I have learned to rest. And it is in that rest that I have discovered (and am still discovering) the woman God designed me to be rather than the woman the world demanded I be.
We have learned much about one another and about how to love one another. We are honest. We play. We laugh. We cry. We love.